Get access

Heat exposure in sugarcane harvesters in Costa Rica

Authors

  • Jennifer Crowe MPH,

    Corresponding author
    • Central American Institute for Studies on Toxic Substances (IRET), Program on Work, Environment and Health in Central America (SALTRA), Universidad Nacional, Heredia, Costa Rica
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Catharina Wesseling MD, PhD,

    1. Central American Institute for Studies on Toxic Substances (IRET), Program on Work, Environment and Health in Central America (SALTRA), Universidad Nacional, Heredia, Costa Rica
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Bryan Román Solano BS,

    1. School of Engineering in Occupational Health and Environmental Hygiene, Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica, Heredia, Costa Rica
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Manfred Pinto Umaña BS,

    1. School of Engineering in Occupational Health and Environmental Hygiene, Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica, Heredia, Costa Rica
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Andrés Robles Ramírez MS,

    1. School of Engineering in Occupational Health and Environmental Hygiene, Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica, Heredia, Costa Rica
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Tord Kjellstrom MD, PhD,

    1. Umeå Centre for Global Health Research, Umeå University, Sweden
    Search for more papers by this author
  • David Morales PhD,

    1. Mesoamerican Sustainable Development Center of the Dry Tropics (CEMEDE), Universidad Nacional, Nicoya, Costa Rica
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Maria Nilsson PhD

    1. Umeå Centre for Global Health Research, Umeå University, Sweden
    Search for more papers by this author

  • Disclosure Statement: The authors report no conflicts of interests with the study in this manuscript.

Correspondence to: Jennifer Crowe, IRET-UNA 86-3000 Heredia, Costa Rica.

E-mail: jennifer.crowe@una.cr

Abstract

Background

Occupational heat stress is a major concern in sugarcane production and has been hypothesized as a causal factor of a chronic kidney disease epidemic in Central America. This study described working conditions of sugarcane harvesters in Costa Rica and quantified their exposure to heat.

Methods

Non-participatory observation and Wet Bulb Globe Temperatures (WBGT) according to Spanish NTP (Technical Prevention Notes) guidelines were utilized to quantify the risk of heat stress. OSHA recommendations were used to identify corresponding exposure limit values.

Results

Sugarcane harvesters carried out labor-intensive work with a metabolic load of 261 W/m2 (6.8 kcal/min), corresponding to a limit value of 26° WBGT which was reached by 7:30 am on most days. After 9:15 am, OSHA recommendations would require that workers only work 25% of each hour to avoid health risks from heat.

Conclusions

Sugarcane harvesters are at risk for heat stress for the majority of the work shift. Immediate action is warranted to reduce such exposures. Am. J. Ind. Med. 56:1157–1164, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Ancillary